Elmore Leonard, the prolific novelist who began by writing westerns, but then evolved by creating a genre almost all his own that might be called the "urban comic crime thrillers filled with idiosyncratic characters and crisp, evocative dialogue," has passed away. He was 87, and was suffering from complications related to a recent stroke.
Leonard wrote 45 novels and was working on his 46th when he had the stroke several weeks ago. His books have been turned into 20 movies and several TV series, including the current and much-lauded "Justified." A movie based on his book "The Switch," entitled Life of Crime, is scheduled to close the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
- KC's View:
I'm a devoted Kindle user, but there are a few authors who, when they come out with new books, I pick up the physical version. They're the books I love, in the genre I like best. And Elmore Leonard always has been one of those guys - I have most of his novels on my bookshelf, plus his "10 Rules of Writing," which I keep on my desk next to my laptop," as well as on my iPad. (In fact, even when teaching marketing, I talk to my students about the importance of good writing and suggest that they buy "10 Rules.")
Leonard wasn't just a great American crime novelist. He was a great novelist - a stylist who, when he wrote a sentence that sounded like writing, would rewrite it. One of his rules of writing: "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."
When he signed books, Leonard inevitably would write "Take it easy" before signing his name. Which somehow seemed to reflect the level of cool that seemed to cling to both his work and his persona.
Want to get a sense of the Leonard patois? Watch the clip above, a few moments from the movie Out of Sight, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, a film generally considered to be the best adaptation of Leonard's work. (Some would vote for Get Shorty.)
But I think the thing I liked most about him was the thing that I liked about Robert B. Parker (with Leonard at a seventies book signing, left). They were writers. They got up in the morning and they wrote, because that's what they knew how to do, and that's what they liked to do. And, when they were done, they wrote the kinds of books that people loved to read.
Can't think of higher praise.